Using a chatbot to engage student leaders at Rice University.

"Our project manager was an exemplary organizer and implementer. Their use of our time was very efficient."

- Tom Kolditz, Director, Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University

Rice Chatbot Screens

Project Highlights

  • Starting with a Google design sprint validated the most unconventional approach would pay off, giving us a great deal of confidence going into development.
  • A two-day, on site kick off allowed us to start collaborating with Doerr leadershio and Rice IT staff from day one, establishing a unified team.
  • Continually focusing on delivering the highest value features for MVP first resulted in minimal impact when the budget was drastically reduced. 
  • After launch, Rice University's IT department (which had co-authored the code) was able to own support and maintenance of the app.

Doerr Institute for New Leaders, at Rice University

How do you grab the attention of students in a world full of distractions? That’s the question that brought Rice University to Table XI when I worked there. The school had recently launched its Doerr Institute for New Leaders, and needed to raise awareness while connecting students to leadership-building opportunities on campus.

It was our work on a similar project with WomenOnCall that brought The Doerr Institute to Table XI. The Doerr Institute figured we could apply the same thinking to help them engage students — but what they needed went a step further. Where WomenOnCall’s users were seeking volunteer opportunities out, the Doerr team had to find a way to connect with students who might not even know there were leadership opportunities available. 

As we dug into user research, we quickly realized we weren’t going to have any luck getting students to look up from their phones. So we took advantage of the problem. Together, we developed a chatbot that would put the opportunities right in students’ hands. User testing helped us shape the chatbot experience until it felt like second nature, not a chore. As students texted in details on their academics and interests, the chatbot fed the data into a backend program, which paired them up with personalized leadership opportunities. All of this was done with Rice’s IT team right by our side, so we knew for sure that the University would be able to continue using and updating the chatbot long after Table XI wrapped up. 

I worked on a number of things for the wonderful folks at the Doerr Institute:

  • Facilitated a five-day Google Design Sprint with their team and our designers
  • Planned and facilitated a joint project kick off with Doerr Institute leadership, the Rice University IT department, and the Table XI team
  • Coached members of the Rice IT team on Agile practices
  • Fully immersed their developers into our team to ensure minimal disruption at launch
  • Managed the project from inception to launch, on time and on budget
  • Successfully managed a considerable reduction in budget mid-project
  • Ensured successful launch and transition to their IT department

You can read the full case study from Table XI and read the Clutch review from that project.

Interested in learning more?

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